Did You Miss Me? Chronic Illness, Distractions, And Writing

Forgive me, Dear Reader, for I have neglected to write. It’s been three months since my last post. I created snippets of potential posts, but nothing worthy of publishing. This post may be more musings and ramblings than information, education, or inspiration, but here it is nonetheless…

To start, thank you for the many kind words while checking on me through email and social media. I am stunned and humbled by the kindness of my readers.

HEALTH STATUS UPDATE
Since we last chatted, I have been averaging one feel-good, almost normal, low-pain day per week. There have been at least one or two miserable, please God, take me home already, days weekly. The remaining three or four days fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve had a revolving door of chronic flare-ups, and thankfully most of the time migraines, Central Pain Syndrome, and Ankylosing Spondylitis take turns, but at least once a month they all seem to attack simultaneously in a hellish pain storm that none of my medications touch. I see my pain management doctor again in three weeks. I already asked her nurse to look into some of the research I have found regarding ketamine injections and infusions. I don’t know if this is even an option for me due to drug allergies or conflicting diagnoses, but leaving no stone unturned.

Some of you have also asked for an update about the daith piercing I got for migraine management in April. Short answer is it’s not a cure, but it has helped in some ways, and I’m glad I did it. Long answer with details and pictures will be coming soon once it finishes healing and I can finally switch into a cute ring. I have pictures and a detailed log, and will answer as many questions as—perhaps more than—you would like to ask.

DISTRACTION THERAPY
While surviving my less than ideal days and nights, distraction therapy is often what I rely on to keep my sanity when the meds fail. It also keeps me from whining on social media or texting my husband every fifteen minutes with a new complaint. Y’all are welcome.

  • Podcasts: During migraine attacks, I cannot tolerate light, I fight nausea and vertigo, and lying in the dark with ice packs just allows my imagination to build the pain and ruminate on every negative possibility for every situation in my life. Podcasts are my first line of defense. I listen to a variety of international, national, and local talent, mostly related to writing and Christian living. Some are light and entertaining, others are a bit heavier and thought provoking. Following are my top-3 for each genre… Writing: The Journeyman Writer, Book Tour with John Grisham, and DIYMFA or The Creative Penn (tie. I can’t decide). Christian living: Joni and Friends (especially for anyone living with any type of disability—get to know all about Joni Erickson-Tada), The Eric Metaxas Show, and Let My People Think. I encourage you to search these through whatever app you use to listen to podcasts.
  • YouTube: We chose to let TV go last December, and other than cheering on our Texas Rangers (Lifelong fan. We’re not talking about this year. Move along. Nothing to see here.), we really haven’t missed it. I can find exactly what interests me at the moment on YouTube. In the last three months, I watched videos from writers, dog trainers, those living with disability, fashion designers, bullet journal enthusiasts, vegan cooks, and more. My current fav from each of those categories: fourbeforeforty, Zak George’s Dog Training rEvolution, The Frey Life, Justine Leconte, Boho Berry, SweetPotatoSoul, and the more would be TED.
  • Learn a new language: Days when my head is clear, but everything else hurts, I work on learning Spanish. Once upon a time I was almost fluent. When two of the strokes knocked out my brain’s language center, and I had to learn to read, write, and talk again, I was only able to rehab my native language due to time constraints and insurance rules. It was practical and since I was also relearning everything else, it didn’t seem like such a loss. Now, a decade later, it frustrates and saddens me to no end. So I listen to music, watch videos, and read as much as possible in Spanish. Our church offers both an English-speaking service and a Spanish-speaking service, and I have been attending the Spanish-speaking one when I’m able to go, and watching the live stream of the English service when I’m home alone. I also discovered DuoLingo. Can’t tell you how much this app would have changed my life, not to mention my grades, had it been available while I was in school. So many languages. Free. Brilliant! This app let’s you learn in context by reading, listening, and speaking. It evaluates you regularly and increases difficulty as your fluency increases. Learning a language is one of the best ways to exercise your brain. According to the online tests, I’m currently at 35% fluency, but I know at church I understand close to 70% of what’s going on around me. Even if you never master your language of choice, trying will give you an appreciation for another culture, and compassion for those attempting to learn your native language.
  • Phone-A-Friend: I’m so grateful for friends who understand my situation. Sometimes I need help distracting myself, and will call a friend, ask a question, and just listen. Thankfully I have a number of chatty family and friends around the country (this is important when your sleep schedule is as unpredictable as mine—also friends online in UK, Australia, and Chile mean someone is always awake) who will talk about books, what they learned in their Bible study, what’s going on with their families. My eldest is a long-haul trucker who drives from 3 pm-3 am. Sometimes he gets bored and tired at the end of his shift. This boy has the gift of gab, and knows how to entertain me. He tells me about where he is, what he’s seen, what’s going on at home, and he has opinions about everything from politics to history to science, to mixed martial arts.
  • Social Media: I know many are bemoaning fake news, echo chambers, and irresponsible memes, but social media has been a lifeline to the world of the living for me on many days. It has kept me in touch with family and friends, allowed me to participate in events I wasn’t able to attend in person, and allowed me to follow-up with research and interests. In addition to my go-to Facebook page, I have had the time to learn more about Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat. Additionally, as I’m actively working on Gizmo’s book about Service Dogs, I created an Instagram account for him. We would love for you to follow us on whichever platform you prefer, just click the hyperlinks.

WRITERLY THINGS
On my dozen or so good days, I have been able to participate in some great writer and author events. More details and pictures are available on my Facebook page, but following are the highlights. Huge thanks to Marsha Hubbell and Steve McClatchy for being my happy helpers, partners in crime, and chauffeurs on these outings.

  • July 1: Attended soft opening for new local bookstore. Congrats and welcome to Interabang Books in Dallas!
  • July 17: Rainer Bantau and I were the guest speakers for the Writers Guild of Texas, delivering our presentation “Separating Your Blog From The Herd.”
  • September 7: Presentation and book signing by Tess Gerristsen (author of Rizzoli & Isles series of thrillers) at Frisco Library.
  • September 29: Book signing for Harlan Coben, Don’t Let Go, at Interabang Books in Dallas.
  • October 7: WGT Fall Workshop with Romance author Cindy Dees in Richardson. Learned so much about psychology of writing, character development, and marketing!
  • October 8: Presentation and book signing by Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.
  • October 16: WGT meeting with author Jaye Wells presenting “Fighting Demons: Internal versus External Conflict.”
  • I have also written my three morning pages more often than not, and outlined the non-fiction service dog book I’ve been mulling over for a few years.

I don’t consider this proper atonement for three months of not posting, but at least it’s a start. And another shout out to the North Texas Writing Community at large and my WGT and WORD cohorts specifically. When they aren’t encouraging and inspiring me to write, a number of them are doing a great job of making me feel guilty for not writing. You know who you are!

Wishing us all much health, creativity, and productivity in the days ahead!

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